I gave a lot of thought to as to how I should end this portion of my journey. How do I wrap up Jewell Island? What I’ve shared barely scratches the surface of a very unique history.
There was an attack upon the Island’s inhabitants during King Philip’s War by a group of Abenaki “Indians” back in 1676. There is much truth documented as to the true story and later embelished by local storyteller so as to assign a meaning to the name, Indian Rock.
Mining took place as an aside from Cod fishing by two different owners. The second ought to have learned from the first which was a complete failure.
Samuel Butts attempted to mine the pyritic shale to abstract Alum. The operation became known as Butt’s Boondoggle. Capt. Chase leased the land to the newly formed, Portland Mining and Railroad Company. This time Copper was the chief end and Alum as a biproduct of leftovers. The available pyritic shale cost more to obtain than to process, another Boondoggle for sure.
There have been shipwrecks, one of which the men washed ashore. Capt. Chase owned the island at the time and buried them within the interior of the island, complete with headstones.
The island changed hands many times over the years. At times, it was divided on a diagonal, having two owners for awhile on separate occasions. The longest held ownership spanned about sixty years. The government take-over for the conversion to a light and observation station followed this final ownership. The Mckeen family farmed the island, clearing much of the southwest end for fields of hay and a few potatoes as as well. There was a main house, a cabin, guest house and barn. A wooden wharf was built extending to a single pilon of rock and wood (Later transformed by the military into something more formidable.) The history of this family’s attachment to Jewell is both interesting and amusing. I also find it hard to imagine the island as it was then. The forest is thick and referred to as trees that “reclaimed their land.”
Oh, there is so much to say. And, within the desire to speak, I am left with the need to head back to Jewell Island once more.
Treasured Rocks by C.R. White, “By the Sea” 1887
All Jewells of the crown I bring to place before thy feet, o muse, with countless treasures from the earth and air wirth sunbeams from the caves of abondaire: But none my Jewels can compare with jewels that the sea gods wear: All in a golden setting sun, where Jewell’s Island on the wave is hung, Like emerald jewels on the bosom fair of the sea nymph Arethusa.
[Historical information from “History of Jewell Island, Maine” by Peter Benoit. I tried to contact him for photo permissions, especially of the farm but he is away at this time.]